“If you don’t build your dream someone will hire you to build theirs.” — Tony Gaskins
“If you’re going to try, go all the way, there is no other feeling like that. / you will be alone with the gods / and the nights will flame with fire…. you will ride life straight to / perfect laughter, it’s / the only good fight there is.” — Charles Buchowski
Roughly 3 years ago, after a fortunate stroke of random, late night internet stumbling, I came across a little writing practice/exercise by way of Mr. Ernest White II (also known as the FLY-BROTHER, one of my personal favorite travel bloggers out there), by way of the original non-conformist travel blogger himself, Chris Guillebeau. Both are seasoned travelers and writers and are even more seasoned goal setters and go-getters.
Essentially, what this practice entails is spending a little time by yourself with your favorite pen and journal. And with that pen and journal you go and find a comfortable place, your very own sanctuary, to sit down and quiet your head from all the bullshit that’s going on around you, to remove yourself from all distractions, and write.
You reflect, you look back, you analyze, and check in on yourself (because no one else is going to do it for you!). You dream, you think of possibility and your passions and your own happiness; you think about your future and how you want it to look going in to the new year (and beyond).
It’s a time where you can and should shower yourself with props and praise, big yourself up — celebrate your biggest and smallest victories. But it’s also a time for rebuke and blame. It’s a time to be self-aware and self critical — you try to recognize and learn from your failures, your downfalls, where you fell short.
All in all, it can lead you to some beautiful new perspectives, new ideas, and new directions. The most beautiful thing about this exercise though is that it kind of forces you to get after your inner voice and try to listen to what it tells you.
In other words, it is somewhat of an intentional process of defining success, goals, dreams and things you want to learn, forming a plan, and then setting out to achieve them.
Step 1: Although this process varies (just check out how Chris likes to break it down), you more or less first begin by asking yourself the question: “What went well this past year?”
Well, where to begin…
- After 3 long years (and 4 more even longer years) I successfully graduated from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, obtaining my bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Journalism. I couldn’t be more stoked on this here personal feat.
- From there my gritty city exit strategy begins: I quit my job as a waiter in Manhattan, sold and gave away almost everything I owned, reducing all of my possessions down to 3 small boxes and a back pack, and with the money I was able to save over the previous school year, bought a one-way ticket to Bogotá, Colombia.
- I then spent the next 10 months living, playing, learning, working and traveling all over Colombia and Ecuador, knocking down 2 of 21 spanish-speaking countries I plan on visiting throughout my lifetime as a language learner, and completing what was my longest solo adventure to date as a traveler.
On the road, I met new and interesting and inspiring people all the time, made friends in the most unlikely of places, and was steadily finding intellectual, cultural and linguistic stimulation (and inspiration) just about everywhere I went.
I lived with the greatest Colombian family in the world for 2 1/2 months in Bogotá — they taught me everything I know — Stoked!
I climbed mountains and volcanoes in Ecuador, trekked in search of long lost pre-colombian ruins, swam and surfed and bathed in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, hitch hiked along the spine of the Andes, and moonwalked across the equator at latitude 0.
I got spontaneously tatted up in Cartagena with one of my oldest and best friends, Phill Pappas, and cruised around the caribbean in pursuit of photos and other mischief with my other dear friend and most talented photographer, Tessa Beligue, baring witness to some of the most incredible beauty in nature I have ever seen, which in instances brought me down to my knees, completely rapt in awe.
Throughout the journey my emotional spectrum ran the gamut from sublime bliss to extreme loneliness, and at times I had my confidence and swagger completely taken away from me, only to find new confidence and new swagger later in the trip.
I learned more about myself in this past year than I ever could have imagined, and truly realize now that an endeavor such as long-term independent travel — in which you put pure life experience over everything else — is one of the greatest investments in yourself that you can make.
You just have to think 2 things:
1.) high risk, high return
2.) And ask yourself: “What have I got to lose?”
- I also built this website, my homebase on the interwebs, and created my own traveling/spanish language learning podcast series, Dímelo Caminando, which since the launch of the first episode has been downloaded almost 2,000 times in more than 60, I repeat, 60 different countries around the world.
- And to top it all off, I took over 30,000 photos of the whole adventure, much of which are published on flickr and my photo blog, Camino Snaps
Not too bad, if I do say so myself…
You then you ask yourself the question, “What didn’t go well this past year?”
hmmm, let’s see…
- First things first, I definitely spent more money than I had originally intended; however, I cannot say that it wasn’t worth it. This just means I’ll have to work harder on my budgeting, especially while on the road.
- I gravely underestimated the overall amount of work that goes into creating, not only a website, but also a podcast, and a bilingual one at that. From researching to tracking down experts and interviews, to recording and editing, to transcribing and writing lesson plans, to uploading to ahhhh! Let’s just say creating a website, building and recording a podcast, and maintaining a consistent publishing schedule — is a lot of work, way more work than I had ever expected. But it was a most awesome learning experience, it’s been getting easier with time and practice, and I’ve greatly enjoyed the process up until now.
- I had much trouble trying to separate “work” from “play.” While in the field traveling I was constantly looking for different topics and themes I could cover podcast episodes. This was a great practice, as it kept me aware and more in tune to my surroundings; however, this definitely blurred the line between work and play. In other words, when I wanted to play I felt like I should be working, when I wanted to work, I felt like I should be playing. I learned that you have to reward yourself for work completed and when it’s time put it all aside and just enjoy the journey.
- Obviously, learning languages, learning spanish is a passion of mine. But there were times while traveling when I felt very uninspired and without confidence in my abilities. I realized that your passions, your art, your interests need to be regularly rejuvenated and managed, stoked; that I needed to flip the script, if you will, get back to the basics and do things that had originally inspired my drive in the first place, such as reading poetry, discovering new literature, cinema, films and books — and also watching Enchufe.TV
- Traveling with a computer became somewhat of a burden. Of course, my macbook is and was an essential tool in my arsenal — I couldn’t have really built this website or started my podcast without it. But there were times when I found it to not only be a great distraction from “el aquí y ahora,” from “the here and now,” that it would become easy for me to unplug from the moment and disregard people and my surroundings. There is a fine line between its utility and its futility when it starts to become a burden or gets in the way of the moment at hand.
- I became extremely ill after consuming what I believe was water contaminated with parasites. Let’s just say in 10 days I lost something like 11 pounds from vomiting so much. It was horrible (to say the least.) I had to go to the hospital, which then led to a week of pill cocktails every morning…Being sick, away from home, in an unfamiliar place can be really, really shitty.
- There were times, in the most unexpected moments of the journey, when I thought I wanted to come home. This was due to many reasons I feel, perhaps from getting sick or feeling alone in an unfamiliar place or just generally feeling confused and misguided. These moments, I realize now, were necessary and are an integral part of the trip. Holding out on that urge to come home, to entertain the idea, but rather watch it quickly get shot down the moment you’re in motion again…That is a good feeling.
Step 2: Outline goals for the new year
And here we go…
- Publish regularly on TITMW.com, create more resource posts and articles, and a series of downloadable grammar/language guides for readers and students.
- Continue creating and publishing Dímelo Caminando episodes. I have so many more great interviews and conversations recorded, I just need to keep on with the schedule and delivering what I set out to create.
- Create a new podcast series dedicated to different grammar and language concepts, starting from the basics and working toward more advanced concepts.
- Run the New York marathon. Go faster, harder, and longer distances.
- Attend and photograph Burning Man 2013
- Return to South America if possible. If not, next big trip is slated for January 2014 — PERÚ Y BOLIVIA ME ESTÁN ESPERANDO!!!
- Complete Matador U Travel Photography Program
- DANCE! CUT THE RUG! GIVE MYSELF A PERSONAL DANCE PARTY at least once a week… at least! What can I say, I’m a slave to the groove and have a real nice pair of dancing shoes (a.k.a. my feet).
- Start learning a third language and blog about the experience. All indicators point towards French, which I would like attack to using my existing knowledge of Spanish.
- Save as much money as possible for the next adventure.
- Participate as much as I can in the ever-so-awesome and ever-growing Couchsurfing.org communities of NYC, and, as soon as I hit the road again — get back into the South American communities.
Step 3: Make specific decisions in support of those goals.
But of course, this is definitely easier said than done. Here are some things I like to remember when trying to work towards and plan out new endeavors, projects, goals, etcetera:
1.) Always ask yourself :“Why? Why? Why?” So this thing that I’m going to do or want to do, why am I doing it?
2.) When planning, ask yourself and write down: “What do I need to get done today, what do I need to get done each week, what do I need to get done each month?” Then plan accordingly.
3.) Break complex projects into very specific, step by step, tasks. Don’t be vague.
4.) Live by the deadline (I have so much trouble with this). Stick to your own deadlines and give a specific penalty or reward for adhering or not adhering to that deadline.
5.) Give yourself weekly check-ins to evaluate and analyze how you are progressing along with your goals.
6.) Be mindful of when and how you work best and try to work within those hours.
7.) Remember: Habits are much easier to replace then stop — starting a new behavior is much easier than replacing an old one.
8.) Love what you do and do what you love.
Currently, I’m in the process of drafting my editorial calendar for TITMW.com, but with the the goals down, and a plan in effect, all I can say is that the SKY IS THE LIMIT! Definitely Stay tuned for more great spanish language learning tips, resources and new Dímelo Caminando episodes coming your way in February.
Thanks so much for reading, following, listening and coming along this journey with me.
Here’s to takin’ care of business while takin’ your deepest dreams and desires with the utmost seriousness; to not takin’ shit from anybody, and doing the absolute best you you can do as we go forth en este camino.
Much love everybody. Muchas, muchas, muchisísimas gracias!
How about your badself? Do you have a similar practice? Did you do big things in 2012? What are you anticipating for this new year? Learn spanish?